Amgen officials stand by decision to cancel race
May 16, 2011
TRUCKEE, Calif. – Race officials hope Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California will proceed as planned today after Stage 1 was cancelled Sunday due to harsh weather.
Monday’s Stage 2 start from Squaw Valley USA to Sacramento depends on weather conditions on Donner Pass, said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports.
“It’s going to depend critically on the status of Donner Pass and at this point we’ve been focused here and my guess is we have guys up there now (inspecting the site),” Messick said at a Sunday press conference at Northstar-at-Tahoe, where Stage 1 was meant to finish.
Alternatives for the Stage 2 start have been developed, but Messick said he did not wish to speculate.
Stage 1 was cancelled under the advisement of race officials and forecasts to protect riders, Messick said.
“We talked and it was clear that at 6 a.m. this morning a full 100-plus mile stage in the conditions that we all experienced today was irresponsible and so we made the decision to postpone it,” Messick said, referring to an earlier decision to postpone the full route – not the entire race.
Officials hoped conditions would warm as weather predictions indicated and that an alternate route beginning in the South Shore, heading west toward Emerald Bay before a quick turn toward Northstar’s finish would have been possible, Messick said.
“It was only within the last 15 minutes that it really became clear that the weather conditions weren’t improving but were in fact getting worse,” Messick said. “At that point Jim (Birrell, race director) and his technical team made the recommendation not to race.”
Birell said he and his team received information from multiple agencies and officials throughout the day that indicated unsafe conditions and led to the cancellation.
“It’s not the right environment for these professional athletes to put their life on the line, so again the decision was made and we made the right one,” Birrell said.
Andy Chapman, spokesman for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association and the Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Authority, which directed local efforts of the race, expressed regret for weather yet stood by the decision.
“We certainly are disappointed but we do understand and we do support (the decision) and do know that we have seven days of racing ahead of us and we should have a greate Stage 2 start tomorrow morning not 15 minutes from here at Squaw Valley,” Chapman said.
During the press conference reporters asked if a rider protest may have impacted the race decision.
In a Twitter post Radio Shack’s Levi Leipheimer wrote it “would be ridiculous to race! We do not want a repeat of last week heaven forbid!” Leipheimer was referring to the death of rider Wouter Weylandt who died May 9 in the Giro Di Italia.
Rider safety was the only consideration to impact the decision, Messick said.
“We talked to a group of riders and they expressed to us their point of view. Their point of views varied,” Messick said. “By in large they trusted us to do the right thing and if we deemed the route safe they would have ridden it and ultimately we deemed the route not to be safe.”
This year’s snowy conditions would not hinder Tahoe’s bid for next year’s race, Messick said.
“We’re disappointed and I feel bad for the people in the Tahoe region who didn’t have a chance to see some of the best bicycle racers in the world compete,” he said.